Some “experts” say there are eight, 10, even 40 different types of white papers?!
That’s a lot to remember, and a lot to choose from when you want to publish a white paper.
And I don’t think anyone needs that much complexity. Three main flavors, plus two mashups, cover 90% of all the white papers I’ve ever seen.
This page provides some samples of each flavor.
Click on any thumbnail below to download that PDF. These are just a few of the 208 white papers I have worked on.
Flavor #1: The Backgrounder
A backgrounder gives a deep dive into the features and benefits of a certain product or service. That makes this flavor as predictable as vanilla ice cream.
This sample is called an Evaluator’s Guide, and it describes five key benefits of this single sign-on product.
It often gives the product name, and provides many technical details.
Those are sure signs of a backgrounder, aimed at a B2B prospect near the bottom of the sales funnel.
Thanks to Okiok for permission to use this sample.
Flavor #2: The Numbered List
A numbered list provides a set of tips, questions or points about a certain issue, promising a quick and easy read.
This flavor is as light and lively as strawberry ice cream.
This sample lists seven questions that health insurance companies in the U.S. should ask hospitals.
Notice how each question is covered in a single page leaving white space as needed. Although this information is very detailed, it’s still easy to scan.
Thanks to Health Plus Technologies for permission to use this sample.
Flavor #3: The Problem/Solution
A problem/solution white paper describes a nagging industry problem, all the existing solutions and their drawbacks, and then a new, improved approach that works better than anything else.
This flavor is as rich and satisfying as chocolate ice cream.
Problem: Poor cash management and forecasting wastes a lot of money.
Existing solutions: Spreadsheets, accounting systems, ERP, CMS.
Recommendation: Automate the purchase-to-pay process to save costs and avoid errors, as proven by 3 mini-case studies.
Thanks to Basware for permission to use this sample.
Numbered List + Probem/Solution
Try this mashup when you want to provide a lighter take on how to solve an industry problem. This flavor is like a mix of strawberry and chocolate ice cream.
This sample lists three industry challenges, using the problem/ solution structure of a problem/solution white paper.
Notice how every existing tool (hard copies, couriers, faxes, e-mail, CDs and flash drives) is dismissed in turn; this is a sign of a problem/solution white paper.
Thanks to Aconex for permission to use this sample.
Numbered List + Backgrounder
Try this mix when you want to lighten up a backgrounder or spread some product-specific FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) on competitors. This flavor is like a mix of strawberry and vanilla ice cream.
Notice how this “Evaluation Guide” lists a set of 20 must-have features for a particular genre of software.
This checklist (also known as a buyer’s guide) asserts that this vendor has the most capable, full-featured offering on the market.
Thanks to eXplorance for permission to use this sample.
If you need help picking the perfect flavor for your next white paper drop me an e-mail to Gordon@ThatWhitePaperGuy.com